selected Columns, comments, essays and polemics.
Essay in Nordisk judaistik • Scandinavian Jewish Studies | Vol. 28, No. 1
Memory Shame and Dignity
The universal moral outrage at the anti-Jewish policies of the Nazi regime didn’t come with Auschwitz, it came with the very first actions and decrees against the Jews in April and May of 1933, and it was reawakened again by the Nurnberg Laws in 1935 and the November pogroms in 1938. If later people would say they weren’t aware of what was happening to the Jews in Germany in 1933 or 1935 or 1938, then this was not because they didn’t know or didn’t remember, but because there was to be a parallel process of adaptation and normalization, numbing minds and silencing conversations. This would make for shame as a constituent feature of Holocaust memory, the shame of having accommodated to the turning upside-down of the existing moral universe, and to the perversion of deeply ingrained moral values and ethical norms. To remember the Holocaust is to find the narrative means to convey the deep moral rupture at its core, and to time and again rekindle the universal human outrage it forever should be made to provoke.
Comment on Swedish Radio P1, Sunday morning show, Godmorgon världen, July 15, 2017
The Human Identity
To make human difference the main issue in today’s world is like making a main issue of the color of the ship in which humanity is sinking.
The rising seas will not as for nationality or skin color.
Comment on Swedish Radio P1, Sunday morning show, Godmorgon världen, February 20, 2017.
Donald Trump and the culture of writing
Donald Trump has like no other leading public figure, in a very short time managed to dramatically illustrate the rapid breakdown of the culture of writing in our time. What we are witnessing is thus an emerging clash between two cultures of human communication, one evidently capable of bringing a man like Donald Trump to presidential power in a democracy, the other hopefully still capable of putting up a fight against the culture that made him possible.
Comment on Swedish Radio P1, Sunday morning show, Godmorgon världen, January 22, 2017.
The Return of Nationalism
You didn’t need Donald Trump to understand that the post-war world order, the American world order of you wish, were about to end. What is still hard to understand however, is that America now has a president that explicitly wishes to destroy it instead of defending and protecting it. That he also happens to be a pathologically unpredictable, impulsive and stingy person will only make matters worse. The worst of the matter, as I see it, is the return of nationalism in our time.
Comment on Swedish Radio P1, Sunday morning show, Godmorgon världen, November 20, 2016.
History has not ended
No, “ordinary people” didn’t necessarily say and think as Donald Trump. Not before Donald Trump made his voice heard. The voice of the classical demagogue. The democrats of Greek antiquity feared the demagogue more than anything else, since they very well knew what the unscrupulous voice of a demagogue could to do democracy. Namely undo it.
Comment in Expressen, November 13, 2016.
Sleepless in Europe
The election of Donald Trump has demonstrated that a language of defamation, hatred and lying can attract more voters than it repels, and that verbal brutality can be a road to power. The outcome of the US election is a clear message to the burgeoning populist and xenophobic parties of Europe that they henceforth should feel free to smear, vilify and incite without fear of transgressing the “politically correct” borders of decency and shame.
See also this version published by Huffington Post.
Comment on Godmorgon världen, Swedish Radio, October 23 2016.
Democracy after Trump
Donald Trump will not become America's next president, on this I dare put my money, but the problem is no longer Donald Trump. The problem is the many millions of Americans who are still going to vote for what the whole world now knows is a notorious liar, a shameless molester of women, a xenophobe, an advocate of torture, an admirer of dictators, an inciter of violence, who' is handing out promises he cannot possibly keep.
Comment on Godmorgon världen, Swedish Radio, July 31st 2016.
When lying becomes norm
It is true that Machiavelli informed his prince that “the deceiver always will always find someone ready to be deceived”, but I find it hard to believe that he could have imagined millions of people willingly being deceived by someone who openly and shamelessly had declared to anyone willing to listen that his truth of today was his lie of tomorrow.
Comment on Godmorgon världen, Swedish Radio, July 3rd 2016.
The problem with referendums
There are those saying that referendums are the highest form of democracy. Don’t believe them. A referendum is a slap in the face of democracy. At least of that form of democracy which we call representative democracy which is the only form of democracy we know of so far, that is able to connect power with accountability.
Granta Magazine August 2015, Huffington Post September 2015
Europe's Refugees and The Swedish Exception
Why Sweden Is the Exception on Refugees — For Now
What would it take to turn the downward spiral of anti-refugee policies around? Or more precisely, what would it take to make the Swedish exception a source of inspiration rather than a source of resentment and mockery?
Expressen, January 20, 2015
There is a difference between blasphemy and abuse, between peeing in your own tent or peeing into someone else’s.
Expressen, August 12, 2014
Anti-Semitism and Israeli Power
Anti-Semitism is no child’s play.
Neither is the power of Israel.
Expressen, July 8, 2014
Israel and apartheid
I think that Israel is turning into an apartheid state with two blatantly unequal judicial systems; one justice for lawless Jewish settlers, another for outlawed Palestinians.
Civilization and Auschwitz
Lecture at the Engelsberg Seminar 2013
Also published in: On Civilization
Axel & Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation
Ed. Kurt Almqvist & Alexander Linklater
Essay for Counterpoint 2014
Sweden the Reluctant Nation
In this revelatory piece – part of the ‘Reluctant Radicals’ series – Göran Rosenberg explores the hitherto limited success of populist movements in Sweden. This has been partly due to the historically remarkable success of the Swedish model and the concept of folkhemmet, the People’s Home, defining a tight-knit national community striving for a class-transcending social order based on peace, justice, progress and democracy. For several decades the model offered generous access to welfare for all and far-reaching collective undertakings for wages, pensions and equality. In the early 1990s the Swedish paradise began to crumble. Collective obligations were weakened. New restrictions on pensions, health care, benefits, sick leave and unemployment insurance gave rise to increasing socio-economic inequalities. The rapid transformation from a culturally homogeneous nation to a society characterized by cultural and ethnic pluralism challenged the bonds of national cohesion.
"Thus, while a particular Swedish way of life, deeply rooted in myths, narratives and memories, is vanishing into the past, the nostalgia for a ‘paradise lost’ remains a powerful theme in Swedish politics. As long as this promise of a return to a golden past is seen as a legitimate and credible posture within mainstream politics, the politics of nostalgia will resist becoming the domain of political radicalism. As Sweden still remains a reluctant nation, the Swedes still remain a reluctant people."
The Future of the American Idea
Lecture at the Engelsberg Seminar 2009
Published in: On the Idea of America
Axel & Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation
Ed. Kurt Almqvist & Alexander Linklater
Dagens Nyheter op-ed, Jan 8th 2009
Beyond All Reason
What reason now demands is that the new US president as soon as possible brings the counter-productive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a conclusion and invests what is left of US power and prestige to push for the implementation of the only reasonable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Dagens Nyheter op-ed, Aug 12th 2008
How to stop Iran
How to have Iran willingly and in its own interest give up on nuclear weapons? is the question. Having the already existing nuclear powers start making good on their commitment to give up on them as well, is perhaps the answer.
Contribution to the Engelsberg Seminar 2007: The Future of the West
The Future of a European Gemeinschaft
The first thing to say about the future of a European Gemeinschaft is that there is no such thing as a European Gemeinschaft and there never has been.
The new epilogue to the third Swedish edition of The Lost Land 2007
Back in the Ghetto
A policy for locking the Palestinians out will increasingly also lock the Jews in.
Dagens Nyheter op-ed, Jan 26th 2007
What Are Jews Allowed to Say About Israel?
To be accused of “deep down” wishing the destruction of Israel in a major Jewish publication is no small thing.
Dagens Nyheter, July 25th 2006 (also in Information, Denmark and Morgenbladet, Norway)
The Futility of Military Superiority
You don’t have do be from Venus to argue that the warriors from Mars seriously have miscalculated what it takes to achieve peace and security on Earth.
Dagens Nyheter, Feb 11 2006 (also in Politiken, Denmark and Morgenbladet, Norway)
Freedom of Expression and Its Limits
The formal laws constituting freedom of expression in democratic societies are only the tip of the iceberg of unwritten agreements between citizens about what they can express publicly in one context or another. Also in New Perspectives Quarterly.
Dagens Nyheter, Jan 4, 7, 11, 2004 (also in Information, Bergens Tidende, and Stavanger Aftenblad)
The Empire of Fear, Faith and Hope
Three reports on the state of American society after 9/11.
Süddeutsche Zeitung, feuilleton, Jan 24 2004.
Israels Botschafter und das Kunstwerk
Der Auftrag, den der Botschafter zur großen Zufriedenheit seiner Auftraggeber ausgeführt hatte, bestand darin, ins Rampenlicht zu treten und die israelische Rechtsregierung zu verteidigen, eine Regierung, die immer weniger davor zurückschreckt, die Anschuldigung des Antisemitismus zu brauchen oder zu missbrauchen, um eine immer brutaler werdende Politik von Besatzung, Unterdrückung und Demütigung zu rechtfertigen.
New York Times, op-ed, Sep 23 2003.
The Spell of Sweden's Golden Past (pdf-file)
What Swedes have yet to wake up from is not innocence, but self-delusion.The death of foreign minister Anna Lindh should be
a wake-up call from our delusion about the nature of our society, and our delusion that we can be in Europe but not a part of it.
Contribution to the conference “From Sick Care to Healthcare in the Age of Learning”, Stockholm Sep 7-8, 2002.
Insatiable Demand and Infinite Supply.
The Moral Limits to Healthcare.
Any concept of health and cure needs a concept of suffering and defeat. Every vision of limitless health-care needs a vision of the limits of human life.
The War of Words (English)
The decision to define the events of September 11 as an act of war calling for a response in kind had far-reaching implications for the way in which the mass media portrayed the
developments that followed. Events and deeds that journalists should have reserved the right to articulate themselves were put into their mouths pre-articulated.
Der Krieg ums Wort
Über die Beschreibbarkeit des Denkbaren und des Möglichen
Der Entschluss, die Anschläge vom 11. September als Kriegshandlungen und die Antwort als Krieg zu definieren, war alles andere als selbstverständlich, hat aber weitreichende Konsequenzen für die Art und Weise, wie die Medien die weiteren Ereignisse beschreiben.
A Pluralist Democracy
The democracies of today can remain democracies only if they are able to negotiate pluralism and communality, conflict and justice, rationality and identity. What must we do to meet this challenge, asks Göran Rosenberg and presents a possible answer: federation.
Paper delivered at Communitarian Summit, Geneva July 12-14, 1996
Freedom and Necessity
Is there a way to strengthen those parts of modern existence where true meaning can occur, where the distinctively human freedom to create and act can be separated from the demands of necessity and exterior goals – without demolishing the foundations of material welfare (the realm of Necessity)?
Antisemitismus: Tatsächliche und fiktive Bedrohung
Göran Rosenberg argumentiert, dass antisemitische Phantasien nichts mit Juden selber zu tun haben. Jedoch scheint der oft angebrachte Vorwurf des Antisemitismus die Okkupationspolitik der israelischen Armee in einem beunruhigendem Maße zu legitimieren.
La démocratie au service du pluralisme
L'enjeu d'aujourd'hui n'est pas de choisir entre le pluralisme ou l'homogénéité mais entre le pluralisme auréolé de démocratie ou le pluralisme dépourvu de démocratie, entre le pluralisme doté d'institutions démocratiquement légitimes destinées à gérer les conflits ou le pluralisme dénué de telles institutions.
Amerika die Lösung, die Welt das Problem?
Behind the recent conflict between America and Europe lies a radical shift in policy. But this shift has not been made in Germany, in France or in any of the other countries in "old Europe", writes Göran Rosenberg. What has happened has happened in America.
From Crisis and Culture, the Case of Germany and Sweden, ed Lars Trägårdh and Nina Witoszek, Berghahn Books 2002
The Crisis of Consensus in Post-War Sweden
The gist of this essay is that some societies might have an easier transition to a culture of pluralism and diversity than others, and that Sweden might have greater difficulties than most. The main reason for this is the still existing link between Sweden’s increasingly dysfunctional tradition of institutional consensus and Sweden’s seemingly irreplaceable national mythology.
Download as pdf-file.
New Perspectives Quarterly, Summer 1999
The Heritage of a Century
Things have changed, important collective experiences have been made, history does not repeat itself, but when we wish to assess the heritage of a century, we cannot but mote that the tensions we thought were history, are still with us, or can easily be recreated.
Excerpts from talk at conference "Rethinking the Nation State", Florence October 1999
The Squaring of the Warm Circle – Bernadotte in Palestine
A dramatic and perhaps illustrative manifestation of the conflict between the notion of wider justice and the impact of ethnic or national phobias, is the short and tragic intervention by the UN-appointed mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, in the war of 1948
Lecture at Conference Galut 2000, Berlin 1998, published in Turning the Kaleidoscope, Perspectives on European Jewry (ed Sandra Lustig, Ian Leveson), Berghahn Books 2005
Zion and Diaspora – from Solution to Problem
The national institutions in Israel tacitly claim to speak for the Jews of the world and not only for the Jews of Israel, which is a position increasingly hard to maintain in face of the deep internal and external controversies surrounding the most crucial of these decisions and actions.